Like any other NHL team, the Nashville Predators know that it’s not just first-round draft picks that make a team a contender.
Hitting with a high pick is great, but there’s an extra bit of satisfaction when you unearth a surprise that plays on the club for years.
This list features five of the biggest steals in Nashville Predators’ draft history. I weighed it on impact to the club, and how big of a steal the pick was. There might be a few disagreements, but I think I got the idea.
I also wanted to give a shout out to Colin Fitts for his input on this list.
5. Craig Smith (2009, 4th round, 98th pick)
Smith has really impressed with his goal scoring the last couple of seasons. He’s starting to round into a complete player and is definitely a top-six forward for Nashville. He is one of the few Preds draft picks that jumped from the NCAA (Wisconsin) to the parent club without stopping in Milwaukee. He’s also represented Team USA at various tournaments like the World Championships. Smith is a restricted free agent that the Predators would like to re-sign. Not bad for a guy who was ranked 177th among North American skaters by Central Scouting.
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4. Martin Erat (1999, 7th round, 191st pick)
Erat’s exit from Nashville may have ended on a sour note, but there’s no denying what he did for the team. He is currently second in points in franchise history (481) behind the team’s first-ever draft pick, David Legwand. Many thought it was unthinkable when he got traded to Washington in 2013. Erat’s exit from Nashville wasn’t all bad as the Predators picked Filip Forsberg in the resulting trade with the Capitals.
3. Patric Hornqvist (2005, 7th round, 230th pick)
Hornqvist may have been the last pick in 2005, but he was far from “Irrelevant.” Hornqvist burst on the scene with a 30-goal season in the 2009-10 campaign and at least netted 20 except for the injury-riddled and lockout-shortened 2013 season. Hornqvist was sent to Pittsburgh along with Nick Spaling in the deal that brought James Neal to the Music City. There’s no doubt Hornqvist was one of the bigger steals in Preds’ draft history.)
2. Shea Weber (2003, 2nd round, 49th pick)
There is some debate on whether a second rounder can actually be considered a steal, but Weber’s contribution to Nashville have been immense. He’s been a rock on the blueline and is arguably the face of the franchise. Weber was drafted behind Kevin Klein, who is a solid defenseman in own right taken by the Preds at 39. However, there’s no denying that Weber is arguably the class of that draft that included Dion Phaneuf, Braydon Coburn, Ryan Suter and Brent Burns.
1. Pekka Rinne (2004, 8th round, 258th pick)
A year after getting Weber, David Poile got another franchise cornerstone. Rinne came later in the draft in the eighth round and has stabilized the Predators in between the pipes. He was universally regarded as one of the best late-round picks of the last decade or more. Rinne has thrived despite an ever-increasing workload.
Honorable mentions: Roman Josi (2008, 2nd round, 38th pick) I debated whether or not to put Josi on the list. Sometimes a second rounder isn’t a steal, but Josi could move up this list if he keeps putting together seasons like the one just completed.
Mattias Ekholm (2009, 4th round, 102nd pick) could also be a potential mover.
Also, I could argue for Seth Jones at the fourth pick could be considered a steal at number four in 2013 due to him being projected as a potential top overall selection.
What do you think? Did I get it right? Did I get it wrong? Let me know in the comments below.
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Covered hockey since attending SUNY Oswego in Upstate New York in the early 2000s. Has written about college, major junior and professional hockey for the last five years.
Resides in Watertown, NY.